Hello all – below is a very preliminary attempt at creating a definition of digital humanities. A few points I’d like to make before positing a definition:
First, I’ve approached this as a historical lexicographic problem, providing citations of use as a means of illustrating meaning. This may very well not be the best way of defining the concept. It is, however, a start, and I’d love to hear more thoughts on problems that arise from trying to treat it in this manner. My personal feeling is that Will is on a better track to define it the way he’s approached it so far. Second, I’m highly dubious that this can be defined at all. I do think that digital humanities means what people want it to mean, and it is such a nascent phrase that there is going to be no consensus of opinion on meaning. I would take issue, however, with the origins of the phrase as given by Kirschenbaum (Gold, 5), who quotes Unsworth as saying that the term originated in conversation in 2001, as it appears to have been in use for some years prior to that.
Digital Humanities (n. pl.)
A collaborative field which applies the methodologies and uses of computer science to aspects of various branches of the humanities; also, broadly, the practices within the field of digital humanities, as distinguishable from those of traditional academic practice.
1995, Jan. “These are just a few of the digital humanities projects and applications we think are essential to achieving the goals mapped out for the federal National Information Infrastructure initiative, including: encouraging the active participation of the private sector, ensuring the broadest possible access to information resources, encouraging a variety of innovative information technologies and new applications, and ensuring that users can transfer information across networks easily and efficiently.” Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1996: Part 4: Justification of the Budget Estimates. p. 928
1998, Jun. “Shortly to follow will be NINCH’s own list of recommended digital networked projects and resources and a NINCH-coordinated database of international digital humanities projects.” Information Technology and Libraries, 17.2
1998, Nov. “The initiative, which builds on the strengths of the agency’s Teaching with Technology initiative and EDSITEment Web site, will help schools integrate digital humanities resources — online and CD-ROM – into teaching and learning in a way that enriches the entire curriculum.” T.H.E. Journal 26.4